Category Archives: Caribbean Plus Lit News

Literary news of interest from the Caribbean and wider world

On editing and other services for Writers/Others

“So you’ve finally finished your first draft. Maybe it’s a novel. Maybe it’s a non-fiction book. Maybe you’ve written a picture book for children. Perhaps you love what you’ve written. Perhaps you’ve read it and decided it wasn’t really that good after all. Whatever you’ve written and however you feel about it, there is something you still need to do. Edit.” – this is from an article about – duh – why you should edit your writing. It gives good reasons. Check it out.

Having said that, I am now considering building another data base to add to the numerous Wadadli Pen data bases (bibliography and its sub-bibliographies of Antiguan and Barbudan writers, website linkages for local and Caribbean writers, Caribbean writers bibliography, Antigua and Barbuda lyrics and songwriters data base, journals in which Antiguan and Barbudan artists have been published, reading rooms, awards, art discussions, media history, plays, lit arts, opportunities, and opportunities too, the data base of past Wadadli Pen winners, and others including the one I direct would-be authors to most – the resources page which is a data base for published authors and freelance writers).

My serviceswriting, editing, training – will be listed but I’ll dig around and add other lit arts or maybe just general arts related services available in Antigua and Barbuda. What do you think? Is that something you’d be interested in? What services would you like to see listed?


As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). All Rights Reserved. If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.



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Antigua Con Not Dampened by Saturday Showers

You thought the first ever Antigua Con was going to be stopped by the rains that persisted on August 17th 2019 just because it’s an outdoor activity (on the Environment Division Grounds)? Come on, now, fangirls and boys don’t melt in the rain…they have that superhero armor.

Event co-organizer (as part of ‘AnuCon268’ spearheaded by Dwayne Riley, Jho Donna Roacher, Mario Wade, and) – Best of Books bookstore employee, Wadadli Pen Open Mic founder and coordinator, and Wadadli Pen Challenge sometime judge – Glen Toussaint reports that it came off “pretty well” in spite of the rain – though we’d say from the pictures, very well.

There was an opening parade, a Carnival fare feel with various food vendors (sno-cones to cooked food) on site as costumed characters played,

face painting, bounce castle, and, shall we say, passionately-engaged comic book panels in true comic-con fashion. Not sure what a comic-con is? It’s a meet-up of comic book fans – including fans of not just the comic books but the films and TV shows, and also not always just comic books (Japanese anime to Marvel films to your favourite book or TV show with fantasy features, influences are everywhere). There are multiple such events all around the world – New York, which dates back to the 1960s, being the earliest and one of the biggest. Make no mistake, this is a global phenomenon, including right here in the Caribbean with Barbados’ AnimeKon, Puerto Rico’s PR Comic Con and Jamaica’s Anime Nation (source: Naomi n Doll’s Convention and Cosplay Culture in the Caribbean).

Cosplay in which fans dress up as a favourite character (like I did when I played the mango tree faerie from my book With Grace during Carnival 2017) is a huge part of any comic-con. A culture steeped in Carnival can presumably easily grasp and embrace cosplay (hell, I did the entire Wadadli Book Fair in 2017 wearing a literal Carnival mask and a pirate hat from a past Carnival J’ouvert troupe). So, I say bring on the costumes.

The young man in orange and black, Jeremiah Toussaint, cosplaying as Bill Cypher from Disney animated series Gravity Falls, was adjudged the winner. The day’s other big winners – and of particular interest to us here at Wadadli Pen (given our track record with lit and visual arts challenges for young people) – were Trinity Archibald and Lemuel Richards, who secured the bag in the 12 to 15 and 16 to 19 age categories of the Antigua Con art competition. Their challenge was to design an Antiguan (and presumably Barbudan) superhero. As long time fans of the Caribbean Justice Alliance superhero art series, or other forays in to drawing our reality through art generally, and specific to this piece, the lens of the comic/animation genre/s, I think they did pretty good.

(Trinity’s drawing) (Lemuel’s drawing)

Of the Comic Soup panel, Toussaint said, a variety of topics were discussed, and just as importantly, “new friends were made, people learned stuff, and the Comic Soup group gained a few new members.”

Other event features included a graphic design workshop led by Sonali Andrews, whom you may remember did the Team Antigua Island Girls graphic featured on the site some months ago – “their discussion went on quite past the allotted time; there was real interest there,” according to Toussaint; drawing with Maurizio Martin; a gaming station; a Purple Dragon martial arts display; and performances by Shiva’s School of Dance, and soca singers Drastic and Ezzy Rattigan, a former Party Monarch winner, with DJ Soundmaster.

So, was Antigua and Barbuda ready for its first comic-con? Seems so. Toussaint reports “we had a decent turn out, about 80 persons at peak, most of which were in costume or had Cosplay elements or paraphernalia.”

We here at Wadadli Pen embrace anything that pushes artistic expression and youth engagement, and so we stan this. Congrats, AnuCon268.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. All rights reserved.


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Musical Youth Reflection after Release of the Second Edition

The thing they don’t tell you about your book coming out is how busy you’ll be, too busy sometimes to take it in – and depending on what else is going on in your life not necessarily anything close to the high the moment demands. It’s not ingratitude that has you thinking, when another person says “congrats”, “what for?” – you’re just too tired, maybe even too stressed to remember that there’s even something to celebrate. And there is, there is. This book, your first or your 15th, is the culmination of so many hours of dreaming and working, is the fulfillment of so much possibility and improbability, it’s ingratitude not to be grateful for it. And that feeling can add to the stress as well. But hang in there, a time will come, maybe on a random Wednesday afternoon about a week or so late too late when the feeling will hit you. Feel it. You did that.

And with that, I’m here to say that I’m about a week late on posting here about the release of the 2nd edition of Musical Youth.

(cover art by Antiguan and Barbudan artist Glenroy Aaron)

Let me tell you about this book. It’s about creative teens doing creative ish like me and my pals did in our teens, all the while learning and growing. You know already (maybe) that I wrote it in a fortnight and took a shot at submitting this very rough thing (unedited and beta read only by my teenage niece which made sense to me at the time since she was the target audience) to the CODE Burt Award inaugural competition for teen/young adult literature with a little gentle prodding from my sister and the guy at the first book binding place I tried. Yes, I had to get it printed, bound and Fed Ex’d to Trinidad – talk about investing in yourself.  I was checking my email about 3 a m or so one morning months later when I received the news that I had made the short list and immediately called Alstyne (the person who always made sure I stopped to celebrate but who has since passed over but) who was still very much alive then and joined me in screaming and can you believing over the phone. I travelled to Trinidad and came home to no fan fair (which a friend of mine still gripes about) though, honestly it didn’t occur to me then to expect anything. It seemed to me that I had won more than I had dared hope when I submitted the manuscript. Did part of me wish I had won? Of course but the winning book AdZiko  Gegele’s All Over Again is delightful and I am happy to be in company with it and Colleen Smith-Dennis’ Inner City Girl as the first in a series of award winning Caribbean books targeted at contemporary teen readers in the region, with appeal for lovers of good literature everywhere. This book has taken me places (and through CODE, Burt, and Bocas – the entities funding and/or administering the prize – I’ve had opportunities to judge, organize and run a workshop, mentor, and more) and these characters are among my favourites that I’ve written – so much so that I’m working on a sequel (I have been pretty much since the beginning but this past week have legit done some work on it).

Writing hasn’t made me rich in a way that the world recognizes (the opposite probably) but I love being able to write and tell stories that reach people in some way, and I love that one of those books has seamlessly rolled in to a second edition. Yes, I have had second editions of my books before (notably The Boy from Willow Bend and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight) but usually it’s more bumpy (involving a book underperforming and/or going out of print, the legalities of reclaiming rights, the challenges of finding a new publisher); the publisher reaching out to say that the book has performed well enough for them to justify investing more in it, is a different corner turned in the winding road I’ve taken as a writer, journeying. The closest comparison is, again, The Boy from Willow Bend which has had longevity as my first book.

It is a week or so after Caribbean Reads, an independent press with roots in St. Kitts, announced that they have released a second edition of Musical Youth, and I am grateful (whatever else is going on in my life now, and there is a lot that’s not perfect, but I am grateful, this #gyalfromOttosAntigua is grateful).  Shout out to the friend who made me stop to toast the moment. As for my journey with Caribbean Reads (one of four publishers with which I have books currently contracted – the others being Hansib -The Boy from Willow Bend, Insomniac – Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Little Bell Caribbean – With Grace), when faced in 2014 for the first time really with the opportunity to choose from among several regional publishers interested in publishing the Burt winning titles, I was uncertain which way to go – which was positioned to do the most for the book, which would be most invested in working with me like I wasn’t an afterthought (which can happen with big publishers), which would be fairest; so many uncertainties in my mind as I narrowed my options to the three or so I was giving serious condition.  I honestly don’t remember  what tipped it in Caribbean Reads’ favour (and, no, it wasn’t just that of all the options it was, as an imprint with Eastern Caribbean roots, closer to home) but I haven’t regretted it yet – and, in fact, I was able to sell them on  a re-issue of another book I had reclaimed from a publisher I felt wasn’t doing anything for it (those uncertainties I spoke about) and re-issue that book as Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure which now has a Spanish language edition with an activity book pending.

I believe in Musical Youth and I am delighted that readers both at home and abroad continue to discover and embrace it, and I hope for much much more (and bigger and bigger sales – let’s keep it real) as the book moves in to its second life. Thank you to everyone who has been there in whatever way you have been there. I am grateful.

Here is Caribbean Reads announcement re the re-issue (excerpt):

“Musical Youth is the first of two Burt Award winners published by CaribbeanReads, the second being The Protectors’ Pledge by Danielle Y. C. McClean. The success of these titles speaks to the fact that we need Caribbean books and, more generally, #weneeddiversebooks.”

And here is a gallery of Musical Youth moments so far – captions in order pictured (Musical Youth on the bookstagram, Musical Youth part of a middle school chef competition in NYC, gifting Musical Youth to my alma mater after serving as narrator at the annual carol service, my niece and beta reader taking a book selfie, me taking a book selfie on holding the book for the first time, me with co-panelists at the Brooklyn Book Fair after presenting Musical Youth, me with co-presenters and education officials during a schools tour in St. Croix where I was presenting Musical Youth during the USVI Lit Fest, me presenting copies of Musical Youth to the Public Library during the launch at the Best of Books, me accepting the Burt award from the late founder Canadian philanthropist William Burt, and me presenting Musical Youth to students in St. Maarten as part of a schools’ tour during the St. Martin lit fest):

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. All rights reserved.

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Carib Plus Lit News (Early – to – Mid August 2019)

(Sula is a great first read for the Toni Morrison novice and one of my personal favourites)

First, this isn’t Caribbean-specific but I think we can agree that Toni Morrison through the impact of her literature was a global citizen, a Nobel Laureate, and the writer of several seminal works and many words of wisdom and insight re writing and living. Given how huge her presence was it struck me sideways when someone I adore asked ‘who’s that’ when I commented on her passing this past weekend. No shade, just a reminder that we all occupy different realities and though Toni Morrison is one who overlapped with her being a cultural and social critic/commentator, being adapted to film, and writing books like The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Jazz, and Love – and that’s just counting the ones I’ve read. To that list can be added Beloved, Paradise, Tar Baby, and others – including ones on my TBR like The Origin of Others, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, and Paradise which I’ve started and re-started but not yet finished. No it’s not an official DNF. Toni could never be that plus I had a similar experience with Jazz and it turned out to be a personal favourite – proving to be one of those the right book reveals itself to you at the right time experiences. My favourite is my first, Song of Solomon, which I’m now feeling an urge to re-read all these years after I was introduced to it and Morrison in University (though I don’t typically re-read books). As with some other icons I thought would be around forever, I think I’m still in the numb-shock stage of Toni’s passing. I’m short on the deep insights and eloquence some have mustered. I want to suggest only that one of the ways we learn to write is by reading and part of the ways we learn to make sense of our living is to see its reflection in our art. Toni created writing that teaches us how to write and informs us on our lives lived – especially so our lives as black people, especially given that she was a writer very specific about not writing for the white gaze. If you haven’t already, go read her. That’s the best tribute we can pay to a writer of her caliber (or any writer, really) on their dying (and, as it happens, on their living).


This next one isn’t Caribbean exclusive but it is Caribbean inclusive. Some months ago, the Commonwealth Foundation asked me to participate in a survey re the work of the Commonwealth and how I have benefited from it. And I have – between an editors’ workshop, a fiction writers’ workshop, publication of my Commonwealth short story prize submission in Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean (which included the winning piece and the best of the rest from the region), being published on the Commonwealth Writers platform Adda, being invited and sponsored by the Commonwealth to participate in the Aye Write! literary festival in Scotland, and probably more that I’m not thinking of right now. Thankful for those opportunities and was quoted saying as much in the report.

Read the full report on the work of the Commonwealth, not just in the area of the creative arts and not just in the Caribbean but across the Commonwealth in areas ranging from health to land rights to climate change: Stronger-civic-voices-across-the-Commonwealth (1)

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. All rights reserved.

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Caribbean Writers (including Antigua and Barbuda’s Joanne C. Hillhouse and Althea Romeo-Mark) Share Their Summer Reads




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Antiguan and Barbudan Writers Talking CARIFESTA Inclusion (or Lack Thereof)

This post started with this

It was shared to social media by a member of the Antigua and Barbuda literary community (tagging the local cultural gatekeepers and local authors like me) with the following question: “any of our writers have been invited to be part of the official Carifesta delegation sent by the Government and People of Antigua & Barbuada Antigua and Barbuda Festivals Commission. These 14 sessions of Carifesta outside of Antigua & Barbuda … which writers have formed part of the delegation? Is writing considered to be art? Is it an expression of who we are?”

Naturally, I assumed the poser of the question knew the answer to the question posed and was posing the question with purpose and I didn’t want to be drawn in.

Also, I don’t typically respond to everything I’m tagged in but I guess I had time ‘today’. I responded for the same reason I’m sharing the conversation here (without identifying the speakers, since I have not sought their permission to do so) because I am a writer and literary arts advocate who has made more than clear where I see gaps in the boosting of arts, including literary arts, by the powers that be. The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize was launched in 2004 because of a developmental gap I perceived as relates to local lit arts.  Disclaimer alert! Disclaimer alert! I am not saying nothing has been done. To do so would be disingenuous at best, a lie at worst. But there are gaps re lit arts (arts, really) support and inclusion generally, and (very important) consistently; and the process by which the CARIFESTA delegation is selected has never been particularly clear to me (with no intended shade at the artists who have represented us, this is something I queried in an article some years ago – not the selectees but the process by which selection is made). So, I think it’s fair that the question is being asked, reluctant as I am to be drawn in because criticism of any kind is too often interpreted as hateration and grudgefulness etc. But, and this brings me to the other reason I’m sharing this conversation (near verbatim), Antigua and Barbuda is reportedly next in the line-up (after Trinidad and Tobago this year) to host CARIFESTA, making this conversation about literary arts inclusion even more pertinent.

My response in that thread was: No, I have never been invited to be part of the official Carifesta delegation sent by the Government and People of Antigua & Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda Festivals Commission (responding because I was tagged and speaking only for myself). I can’t say which writers from Wadadli have formed part of the past 14 sessions of Carifesta (nor how decisions re the composition of the delegation are made). Yes, writing is an art and, yes, an expression of who we are.

Other writers’ response in that thread:

Other writer 1 –
Never been invited, however was asked to supply 50 books to be taken…when explained that they had to contact the publishers…and publisher willing to ship, however, needs specific details…told to contact secretariat…now what is the number? Who will pay for the books and if sold at Carifesta, what is my percentage…not a meeting or formal letter/email… I was contacted by [name redacted] by phone with follow up WhatsApp messages…

Other writer 2 –
[Name redacted] same with me concerning WhatsApp messages. In the end, I explained that I couldn’t send any books due to financial constraints. From what I understand, books would have been on display, but [redacted] never mentioned a delegation or anything along those lines. Plus by delegation, who would be covering flight and board? *Le sigh*

Other writer 3 –
I’m so clueless, this is the first I’m hearing of it. *goes and stands in the corner*

Other writer 2 –
[Name redacted] *joins you as it feels like writers in Antigua are not taken seriously*

Other writer 4 –


That, to the best of my knowledge, was the end of that conversation. And since I have no connected image, I’ll share this vid from a few years ago which begins Ah Write!

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure which has a Spanish language edition). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out Please note that, except otherwise noted, images on this site also need to be cleared if you wish to use them for any purpose. Thanks.

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Carib Plus Lit News (Mid-to-late-July 2019)

UK-Kittitian writer Caryl Phillips said re the winning Commonwealth Short story of 2019:

”Death Customs” is a remarkable short story that manages to be both personal – following, as it does, the painful narrative of a woman who has lost her son – and deeply political, in that it charts the division of a land as it topples into civil war. We are encouraged to view the descent into bloodshed and mayhem as a domestic squabble between two brothers who can only be reconciled in death. The voices employed are beautifully resonant, and the story shifts gears, and ranges across time, with eloquence. ‘Death Customs’ is poetically intense and complex in form and subject-matter, yet the story remains admirably lucid and moving, and deservedly wins the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.’

The winner is Constantia Soteriou from Cyprus with Lina Protopapa translating the story from Greek into English. Caribbean short listed writers were Shakirah Bourne of Barbados, Kevin Garbaran of Guyana, Rashad Hosein of Trinidad and Tobago, and Alexia Tolas of the Bahamas – who was also the regional winner. Also on this year’s panel of judges was another Caribbean person Barbadian writer Karen Lord.

For the report from the Commonwealth Writers on the outcome of its annual, international short story competition, go here.


Longtime Caribbean-media Association boss, Wesley Gibbings, is coming to Antigua and Barbuda. He’ll be launching his latest book – a collection of poems – July 18th 2019, 6:30 p.m., at the Best of Books, on St. Mary’s Street. Wesley cover 1.jpgWesley Gibbings is an award-winning Trinidadian journalist, media trainer and press freedom campaigner who was born in 1958. His previous collections of poems include: On Life (1977); The Poetry of the Ages with Simon and the Prophets, a one-act play (1980); Cold Bricks and Warm Eyes (1988), and Lost in the City (1991). His work on Caribbean media development and journalism has also been published in books, instruction manuals and journals. In 2017, he was presented with the Percy Qoboza International Journalist Award by the US National Association of Black Journalists for work in the area of press freedom.

This has been added to the latest event round up as a local-event.


“After making the Milo-tea, I tell Mr MacKenzie, whose room is next door to we, don’t forget to lock the gate with the padlock when him come home on lunch break from the factory. Last week, Mama walk through the gate, all the way to Three Miles and then Kingston Harbour. If a postman never see her standing there swinging her arms like a fast bowler she woulda leap in and drown. He take her back home on his bike. Mr McKenzie don’t hear me or care to. Him think him 18-year-old girlfriend, Regina, sleeping with the mechanic downstairs who live beside Mrs James and her boys. His eyes already move from me to the clothes line where Regina in short-shorts, butt-cheeks on display for all to see, is pinning up his once-white merinos she destroy doing the washing.” – Jamaican-Barbadian writer Sharma Taylor’s Son Son’s Birthday was published in Adda (it’s shared in the Reading Room and Gallery but I loved it so much I had to share it here as well). Taylor is also this year’s recipient of the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. All rights reserved.

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